My Life as an International Advisor

Do you know how it feels to go to another country and not know anybody? Or not know what to do? As the Coordinator of International and Multicultural Connections, I get to meet with a lot of students from different nationalities, backgrounds and cultures. When you work in higher education, you need to make sure to understand your role as an advisor; you want to make students feel like they can achieve the impossible and every goal is doable. Even when you have all the years under your wing and know all the tricks regarding advising students, sometimes that isn’t enough to connect with students.

One of the things I use to connect with my international and multicultural students is my personal journey. Once they know my story, the things I did to overcome my journey as an international student athlete, they see how I can relate in everything they are going through, so they are able to open up, share their stories and trust me with any advice I have. They know I “get it” and I am not just giving them nice words I read from a book.

It is one thing to understand a student, and another thing to know how it feels to walk in their shoes. Many people working in admissions have no idea what it is to go to bed with just one meal during the day, or not having enough money to get that coat that will help you during the cold days. The concept of a dysfunctional family is something that we learned at school. We come from “normal” families or grew up having a “normal” life. Opening myself and telling my story as an international student makes students feel connected with me, so I am able not just to advise them academically, but also, they come to hear a word of advice regarding life and personal decisions.

I feel my role at Ellsworth Community College is not just making sure my students are able to graduate or transfer to continue their education. I feel my role is to serve them and use my story as a way to push them to do and be better in life! Unless you have an experience similar to them, they are never going to be able to truly open up to you. So, I recommend, if you have the opportunity to travel, or visit some areas, go to those where there’s a need. You don’t even need to leave the country or state. Try to live in their shoes for a few hours so you can understand where they are coming from and why, sometimes, they are not as open as you would like them to be. We need to have empathy with all of our students, so to be able to see the world in their own perspective is something they will truly appreciate.

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